The Free the Nipple campaign might’ve worked in Fort Collins, Colorado, but women’s nipples must still be covered in the Live Free or Die state. In a 3-2 vote, the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld the convictions of three women arrested for going topless on a Laconia beach, ruling that the indecent exposure ordinance banning baring female breasts was constitutional.
“We have found that the ordinance does not violate the defendants’ constitutional rights to equal protection or freedom of speech under the State and Federal Constitutions,” the court announced. “As such, it does not unduly restrict the defendants’ fundamental rights.”
The Laconia public indecency ordinance prohibits “the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple.” Heidi Lilley, Ginger Pierro, and Kia Sinclair — part of the Free the Nipple campaign — claim the law unfairly targets women based on sex, and violates their free speech rights. The trio were arrested for refusing to put tops on while at a beach at Lake Winnipesaukee in Laconia on Memorial Day in 2016. Pierro was practicing yoga, and Lilley and Sinclair were cited three days later at the same beach.
“It’s pathetic how highly sexualized a woman’s breast is,” Lilley told The New York Times. “I thought that it was necessary that we make a change to that.”
Which Nipple Is Illegal?
Pathetic or not, the New Hampshire Supreme Court relied on prior rulings from other courts that “generally upheld laws that prohibit women but not men from exposing their breasts against equal protection challenges,” noting those courts accepted the argument that female breasts, unlike their male counterparts, are an “erogenous zone.”
But not all the justices agreed. Justices James P. Bassett and Gary E. Hicks found the ordinance unconstitutional because it treats men and women differently. “If a woman and a man wear the exact same clothing on the beach,” Justice Bassett wrote in the dissent, “the woman is engaging in unlawful behavior — but the man is not.”
Sadly, in a state with only two options, it appears the female nipple is dead.